In the summer of 1914, Jane Fairchild, a young English musician, is kidnapped by magic and sent to Spellhaven, an island city ruled by magicians. Here, peace and prosperity are maintained with the assistance of Unseen Spirits bound to the service of the Lords Magician. The Spirits must be kept in good humour by the performance of all kinds of shows, dance, drama and music. Jane is one of many people kidnapped from the outside world and forced to contribute to these entertainments for a set period of service.
Only Jane is having none of it. She will not perform for her kidnapper, Lucian Palafox, but agrees to undertake an apprenticeship with another magician impresario, provided she is taught magic in return. Jane’s forays into magic lead her deeper within the mysteries of Spellhaven, her rivalry with Lucian escalates and the quarrels between them grow strong enough to shake the city to its foundations.
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure
Hours later she was seized with panic. If she kept walking, her legs knew the right way to go and her headache remained bearable, but she had lost all sense of where she was in the countryside. She could not see any landmarks that fitted what she knew of the Chilterns. Her feet were sore and her back ached. But more frightening than being lost was the suspicion that she was not in control of her own movements; that some nameless force was choosing her way and driving her forward. As soon as this thought crystallised in her mind, she decided to test it. She halted and this time she forced herself to turn round. At once the pain in her head tightened so that she could hardly see. As she took one step back the way she had come and then another, cramps twisted her legs and shoulders until she fell to the ground and rolled around, whimpering. She clutched her music bag and cradled it to her breasts.
When she could stand again, she no longer knew which direction she had come from, but it did not matter. She let her mind go blank and plodded onwards. She looked at the mark on her arm, which was dark and seemed to have gathered weight, as though it was growing downwards inside her skin. She was angry and afraid but she did not think she would survive another attempt to break away.
The evening was cool by the time she came to the side of a river and saw a rowing boat, small and battered, pulled up onto a mud slide. She was no oarswoman and in her ordinary state she would not have taken a boat that did not belong to her. She could not even tell how leaky it might be. But these thoughts slipped quickly out of her mind, set against the knowledge that she could not keep still and that her feet would not carry her much further. She inched the boat back into the water and scrambled over the side.
She did not attempt to row; at first she sat upright, one oar gripped between her hands, in case she had to fend off rocks or steer away from weeds, but the boat moved past such hazards faster than she could react to them. She was very tired. The night was clear, more like deep twilight than full darkness. Starlight gleamed on twists in the current, pale scrapes of stone or leaves along the banks, alarmingly close or puzzlingly distant, but all these glimpses rushed past at dizzying speed. Before long, Jane set down the oar and curled herself into the bottom of the boat, which was almost dry. She put her head on the rowing bench and fell asleep.
She never knew how long that journey lasted. She woke now and then to see daylight and black cliffs on either side of the boat or woods of gnarled trees with yellow leaves which belonged nowhere in an English July. And at least once she woke at night to hear owls call and fish splash around her, but the boat swept onwards and sleep was less painful than staying awake.
When the boat stopped, she knew she would have to rouse herself. She sat up stiffly and found she was beached on a gentle slope of sand, surrounded by a thick mist. She could smell the sea and light shone from somewhere above her. She clambered out of the boat and crawled up the slope, her music bag slung at her back.
At the top was a paved causeway and mist in all directions. She could hear the surge of waves and the calls of gulls but she could see nothing except far off down the Causeway. There white walls shone under the sun. She looked around while the mist turned and shifted in gusts of cold wind but nothing else came clearly into sight. At her end of the Causeway loomed dark shapes, which might have been cliffs at the mouth of the river or might not. In any case, she could again feel the pains that had driven her there. They had been quiescent while the boat carried her onwards but now they flared up again and harried her towards those white walls. She stumbled onwards, stiff and slow at first, and then more steadily. Near her destination, she came abruptly out of the mist. She faced a city on an island, where battlemented walls encircled towers of golden brown, grey stone houses, bridges, trees, and fountains in rising layers on a great hill. She halted in admiration and amazement but her fever drove her on before she had time for a proper look.
The Causeway led to an open gate in the city wall, under an arch wide enough for a steam engine. The front bristled with spears from which hung many-coloured banners, flapping in the wind. Jane could not pause to study their devices but hurried desperately on. Then, as soon as she walked under the arch, she stopped. Her fever vanished away, as suddenly as if she had been dragged here in the claws of an invisible lion, which had now released her. And she felt mauled and half-eaten, like a lion’s prey, barely able to remember who she was or what it would mean to take decisions of her own accord.
A man in a cloak with badges came towards her and spoke in a language she did not know. She stared at him and he tried more words. ‘Where is this place? Do you speak English?’ Jane said.
But she fainted before any answer came.
Follow the tour to read guest posts, reviews, and exclusive excerpts!
Meet the Author:
Sandra Unerman lives in London in the UK. When she retired from a career as a Government lawyer, she undertook an MA in Creative Writing at Middlesex University, specialising in SF and fantasy, and graduated in 2013. Since then, she has had a number of short stories published. In 2016, these included stories in Three Drops from a Cauldron, the Midwinter issue and Aurora Wolf, the September issue, both available online. She writes reviews and articles for the British Science Fiction Association and the British Fantasy Society. She is a member of London Clockhouse writers and other writing groups. Her interests include history, folklore and medieval literature.
Connect with Sandra :
Amazon Author Page:
Goodreads Author Page:
Goodreads Book Page: